I was one in the number.
I was one of the thousands of people who stood on the National Mall on Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
At 26 years old, I wasn’t even thought of, as the old folks say, when our nation’s leading civil rights icons organized that original march in 1963. For me, mingling with ivory, olive and chestnut skin tones is practically a birthright. I enrolled in predominantly white universities without fanfare. I vote without intimidation.
So why did I go?
I guess I wanted to dangle my feet in the Reflection Pool, as I’ve seen the 1963 attendees do in black and white footage. The pool was blocked off.
I wanted to join in a Negro spiritual, maybe sing a verse of “We Shall Overcome” in unison with others from across the country. I didn’t sing a note.
Fifty years ago, the participants traveled to the Capitol in peril. The march occurred two months after Medgar Evers’ fatal shooting and about one month before four black girls died in a Birmingham church bombing.
On Saturday, I marched with seven of my college girlfriends. Our group of black girls only worried about which restaurant we’d visit for breakfast and how to split the costs of our hotel stay in Dupont Circle.
For those privileges and liberties, I owe so much to those brave people who lobbied for equal rights decades ago.
I went to D.C. to honor them.
I stood in awe of Myrlie Evers-Williams on Saturday. She urged us to turn a negative into a positive and to stand our ground for justice. I was honored to hear Congressman John Lewis recall his speech a half century earlier, and I heeded his words to continue the fight. I agreed with Martin Luther King III when he acknowledged that his father’s dream had not been fully realized.
So much has changed since Aug. 28, 1963, yet much remains the same.
Jobs. The unemployment rate indicates that millions still need them to provide for their families. Freedom. Some sections of the population feel betrayed by the justice system and are still bound.
On Saturday, I read protest signs and heard speeches that touched on issues that harken back to the ’60s, mainly racial profiling and economic disparity. A few speakers knocked North Carolina for the recent voter ID bill that opponents call a voter suppression bill.
The struggle continues.
Speakers roused the crowd when they repeated lines from Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendary “I Have A Dream” speech. His words still inspire us.
The work of King and countless other civil rights leaders during that pivotal period in American history allows my generation to live and love with few barriers.
I’m grateful that I am one in the number.
Dioni L. Wise lives in Greensboro and writes for a custom content agency.
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